Teaching and Learning War

History studies at primary school Pupils studying Second World War by reading old newspaper UK

Catriona Pennell
University of Exeter

The AHRC has recently funded the Teaching and Learning War research network, which brings together EU and international researchers and educationalists, from a range of academic disciplines and professional backgrounds (including schools, museums, archives and heritage organisations), to explore young people’s engagement with and receptivity to the cultural memory messages of the two world wars from an international comparative perspective. At the centenary of WW1 in the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand young people find themselves front and centre of both state-sponsored and community-level commemorations. As the two world wars fade from living memory, young people across the Commonwealth have been singled out as those who will be carrying the memory of the war forward. Early indications suggest similar emphasis will be placed on young people in the 80th and 90thanniversaries of WW2. Continue reading “Teaching and Learning War”

Imperial History in a Post-Imperial Setting: Power, Patriarchy and Pardon

Chinese scroll with illustration of the iron steamer Nemesis and a British man-of-war, accompanied by a 55-line Chinese poem [1840c_ChScrollNemesis_D40019-04_left]
Chinese scroll c. 1840 with illustration of the iron steamer Nemesis and a British man-of-war, accompanied by a 55-line Chinese poem. Image courtesy of the British Library.

Catriona Pennell 
History Department, University of Exeter

In 1942, Arthur Waley – English orientalist and sinologist – described the first two decades of the twentieth century as ‘a great turning point’ in Anglo-Chinese relations. It was in this period that poets, professors and thinkers began to visit China instead of soldiers, sailors, missionaries, merchants and officials.[1] These ‘men of leisure’ travelled ‘not to convert, trade, rule or fight, but simply to make friends and learn’.[2] Over seventy years later, these sentiments were at the forefront of the international PhD symposium on ‘Imperial Expansion and Globalization’ convened to ‘mark the friendship between the Department of History at University of Exeter, Durham University and Peking University’ between 10 and 13 July 2015.[3] Over the course of four intense days, twelve PhD students and three academics immersed themselves in debate, discussion and cultural exchange. While the topics of the papers covered Warley’s four core issues of imperial contact – belief, economics, governance and conflict – the atmosphere was always cordial and welcoming.

I felt privileged that my first visit to China was within this setting of cultural and academic accord. Spending time with our hosts, both in the formal setting of the symposium and during our “downtime” visiting some of Beijing’s most famous landmarks, gave me a good deal of time to reflect on what it meant to partake in intellectual exchange on the history of empire in a post-imperial setting. How far had we really moved into a post-colonial era? Was our academic relationship genuinely based on mutual respect and understanding? The remnants of Britain’s colonial relationship with China were never far away. This was both obvious – in the fact that the working language of the symposium was English – and more subtle; for example, the realisation that the phrase ‘I won’t kowtow’ originated from the British McCartney Mission to China in 1793.[4] There were also gentle reminders of other European influences; as a vegetarian a staple (and delicious) food item during our visit was “danta” – miniature savoury egg tarts based on the Portuguese recipe introduced to China via its first and last European colony, Macau. Continue reading “Imperial History in a Post-Imperial Setting: Power, Patriarchy and Pardon”